Review: 13 Minutes

Director Oliver Hirschbiegel returns to factual World War II drama in new film, 13 Minutes.

Oliver Hirschbiegel‘s 13 Minutes might not offer much new in the way of film craft, but does revisit a little known chapter of Nazi Germany, that on paper at least, is worthy of interest. Had his single-handed ploy to assassinate Hitler been successful, Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) would be every bit as famed as Booth or Oswald, yet no doubt remembered more heroically. One wonders the fate of Nazism had Elser’s superbly crafted, yet ill-timed bomb brought down Hitler and various other high-ranking notables of the Third Reich on November 8 1939. That they had unexpectedly departed the beer hall – a significant meeting place for the Nazi party – 13 minutes prior to the deadly explosion must have eaten away at the 36-year-old Swabian carpenter during his five years of imprisonment. Perhaps that’s why he had repeatedly wished for a speedy execution, although more likely it was due to the repeated bouts of torture he endured at the hands of Nazi interrogators. The film represents a return for director Hirschbiegel to the territory of his 2004 hit Downfall, and sits somewhere between that film and his less favourably received 2013 misfire, Diana, in terms of form. Scenes in which Elser places the bomb, is captured and then interrogated comprise one of two story lines. The alternating scenes flash back to more idyllic times in which Elser plays accordion, falls for a married woman (Katharina Schuettler) and grows increasingly frustrated at Germany’s blind faith in a man he regarded as little more than a ‘gangster’. While the film begins with the type of tension expected of such suspense-laden material, it gradually loosens it grip as events unfold in a rather plodding, often heavy-handed manner. 13 Minutes, like poor old Georgie’s bomb, is high on dramatic potential and impeccably crafted, yet ultimately just misses its mark on an emotional level. 13 Minutes is in cinemas now


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